This Space for Rent

A series of unfortunate events

In the grand scheme of things, flat tires are a annoyance.

In the grand scheme of things, riding my bicycle in the rain is an annoyance.

Add them together, and then they’re a pain.

I discovered this yesterday when I rode out to the godforsaken end of Washington County to try and ride the Verboort Sausage Populaire, only to be defeated by three flat tires, two of which happened when it was dumping down rain (and, worse yet, the third happened after I had already lost more than a hour to the second flat tire (the first one in the rain) and no longer had any functional tires, so I had to finish out the R100 in 5-6km sentences, punctuated by frantically pumping the tire up so I could creep closer to the end of the loop.)

I’m sure that rural Washington County is quite pleasant. I certainly enjoyed rolling through it on the two loops I did of the UGB 200k, and the run up and down Dairy Creek Road was rain-free enough so I could ignore the increasingly slippery feeling of the rear end of the bicycle as the third tire (donated by another randonneur, and then punctured by my bicycle very soon afterwards) slowly deflated down to nothingness in favor of enjoying the traditional sodden but very green Oregon countryside (the run in from highway 6 to the horrible clusterf*ck that is the Verboort sausage festival was also nice, but my patience with the ride/inflate/ride/inflate cycle had worn down to the point where I couldn’t enjoy the brief stretch of afternoon sunshine between rainstorms.)

I’ll blame it on Meek Road, which, aside from being a spectacularly nasty example of why the midlifecrisismobile is going to have fattish 650b wheels, also hid something that, when I ran over it about 200 meters east of Jackson School Road, exploded (or something) with a horrible metallic clatter and punched about eight holes in my rear wheel (and, it turned out, gashed through my xtracycle pannier and slashed my spare inner tube,) one of which made the wheel go flat basically instantaneously (10 minutes to fix, and this time it wasn’t raining, so I didn’t mind when everyone else on the brevet went whizzing on by) and another which made the wheel start going flat half an hour later, when I had just passed through North Plains and was conveniently out in the rain-swept countryside with no shelter around (this is the one that killed my brevet. I attempted to re-inflate the tire so I could get to the demised store (and open porch) at Mountaindale & Dairy Creek, but the inner tube would have nothing to do with this and I ended up pulling off to the side of the road and trying to replace it with my spare, and also dead, tube, and then after that failed dragging the bicycle up to the store to sit under the porch and spend another half an hour or so trying to patch the hole I found in my original tire. I didn’t get it fixed until I flagged down John Kramer (“please, sir, can I have another patch?”) and, after he spent 15 minutes trying to dry the tube off to patch, when he flagged down someone else who had a tube I could borrow which actually inflated. Oy.)

And only then did I get the bicycle back on the line and up the ramp to Fern Flat Rd, then down to Mountaindale, renewed rain, and the realization that I was going to have to spend the rest of the loop kludging the back tire to keep the bicycle running (fsvo “running” – real bicyclists can run long distances at high speed with flat tires, but I get really slow when my back tire gets low enough to start skating sideways) out to Banks and back.

On the bright side, I managed to see the top half of a Portland bound P&W lumber train when I was about 2 miles east of the turnaround and control at Banks. Unfortunately it was dumping down rain at that point, so no pictures, and you’ll have to take my word for it. And, on the other bright side, after I reached Verboort ((20 minutes after the control closed, oh well!) and spent 20 minutes wandering around the traffic choked disaster area that is the sausage festival in a vain attempt to find said control) and bolted for home, I found a convenience store on Canyon Road that had nice broad eaves, so I could get some junk food, sit down with the bicycle, find, and then patch the third flat before heading back out into the now bombing me with cats and dogs rain for the 30 mile run back home.

I got 193 kilometers (41 to Forest Grove, 104 for the loop back to Forest Grove, and 48 back home) out of this loop, and by G-d I earned them.

And as a postscript to the whole trip, I sat down and tried to patch the tubes that failed yesterday: My initial tube (the one that I was riding when I went over the fragmentation grenade) ended up with three holes in it, the slashed by debris spare tube had two holes in it, and the loaner tube had one. And the Ruffy Tuffy tire on the back of the bicycle, which only had slightly over 2000 miles on it? I counted eight gashes, three of which went all the way through and one which still had a tiny metallic fragment wedged deeply into it. That tire is dead, and needs to be recycled, and I’m back to a heavy, stiff, and slow Vittoria Randonneur on the rear wheel of the xtracycle (yuk! Maybe it’s time for me to sew up a few spare handlebar bags and see if I can sell them, and then I can shop around for some more flexible armo(u)red tubes) instead of the nice & speedy, but sadly fragile, Panaracer tires.

On the things that worked/things that didn’t work categories (modulo the innertubes) there were very few things that didn’t work.